It has never been about releasing the same album twice. We constantly discover new ways to portray the Nordic dark side of feelings and life.
Its been a long journey for Stockholm natives Katatonia. From their early days as death/doom pioneers to their more progressive and melodic modern incarnation, the band have always tugged on the heartstrings with their emotive lyrics and evocative imagery. Now, as the band prepare to release their newest masterpiece, City Burials, Ben Jones had a chat with bassist Niklas Sandin about exactly what keeps the band going as they approach their third decade.
E&D: City Burials is a very evocative title. Whats the meaning behind it?
Niklas: I’m not sure there’s any specific meaning behind the title. It’s a title that beautifully describes what to expect of this album. A mixture of songs, very much in the vein of what Katatonia has always been about. Gloomy and melancholic music.
E&D: ‘Lacquer’ is a beautiful song, but seems an odd choice as a lead single for a metal band. What was the reason to release this as the first song fans heard?
Niklas: Foremost it is a really good and strong song. Something you’re searching for in a first single. And since it doesn’t necessarily represent the album in a whole, it leaves more for the listeners to anticipate and discover.
E&D: ‘Behind the Blood’ has a unique heavy metal twist on the traditional Katatonia sound. What is the story behind this song?
Niklas: It’s for sure a very heavy metalesque song if you like and the story behind this is about an unhealthy relationship. And what kind of relationship is up for the listener to interpret. I think it was a very good follow up to ‘Lacquer’ as it shows that the album carry heavy elements as well.
E&D: You have a guest vocalist in the form of Anni Bernhard on the song ‘Vanishers’. How did that come about?
Niklas: My old friend Tomas Åkvik, who now can be seen with Bloodbath, played live with Anni’s band Full Of Keys back in 2012. We often listened to the full length album Traces of a Human when touring for Dead End Kings. It’s a great one with strong vocals. This must have been in the back of Jonas head as he was thinking of her when wanting to feature female vocals for ‘Vanishers’.
E&D: You announced a hiatus following 2016’s The Fall of Hearts. Why such a long break? And why is now the right time to return?
Niklas: The band has been going on for such a long time without a break, so it was nothing surprising when we decided to do one, for indefinite time. We all need a break at some point to recharge batteries and gain new motivation. And this was exactly the medicine we needed. We decided to pick up where we left of simply because we got the feeling of doing it again. It needed to be on those conditions and nothing else. Now we’re very motivated, and i think the album speaks volumes of this.
E&D: You’ve been going for nearly 30 years now. To what do you owe this longevity? Do you find it harder now to find inspiration?
Niklas: Since Katatonia is a band that which finds inspiration in so many different things and happenings, inspiration really isn’t an issue. And it has never been about releasing the same album twice. If you’re set out to do the same formula over and over again, that might be a problem. But we constantly discover new ways to portray the nordic dark side of feelings and life.
E&D: You’ve recently recruited a new guitarist, Roger Öjersson. How much input did he have on the recording of the album? Did he find it hard to settle in to the already established dynamic?
Niklas: He’s for one written some killer solos and leads for this album. And he’s already settled in so well in the band, as he’s been doing the whole touring cycle for The Fall of Hearts. He is a great guy with the same kind of twisted humour as us, so it’s definitely a great fit!
E&D: You’ve long since moved away from the more death/doom style of the earlier albums. Do you still get fans asking you to return to that sound? Have you ever considered it, or at least playing the early songs live?
Niklas: That’s actually something that comes up from time to time. But the band has moved away from that sound so long ago. We have done a few numbers from the earliest record live during the last ten years. But if we’ll do it again is something that only time can tell.
E&D: What are your plans for touring City Burials, and your future beyond that?
Niklas: The plan is as always to play as many countries, cities and places we can. Wherever people want to see and hear us live. Would be great to finally come and play in Japan. Something that certainly would be a personal milestone!